(Photo: Flickr / U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Yosemite's Rim Fire was started by a hunter's illegal fire, the U.S. Forest Service stated Thursday. Officials have not released the hunter's name and he has not been arrested.
The latest report contradicts earlier rumors that that the fire was started by marijuana growers. That original claim first surfaced two weeks ago when Twain Harte Fire and Rescue Chief Todd McNeal asserted in a community meeting that the blaze was likely the result of a cannabis farm.
"We know its human caused, there's no lightning in the area," he said in remarks documented by a YouTube video. "[We] highly suspect that it might be some sort of illicit grove, marijuana grow-type thing."
But Jerry Snyder, a Forest Service official, told The Los Angeles Times that the location where the fire started could not have supported a marijuana farm.
"Most of these gardens, they need access ... they need to be able to get in there ... and there are no roads in this area," Snyder said. "You need a water source ... this fire started considerably above the river."
The Rim Fire started on August 17 and is currently 80 percent contained, though the fire has continued to spread into Yosemite National Park. It has burned over 200,000 acres and destroyed 111 buildings and the government has spent $72 million combating the blaze.
As fire officials have made progress in containing the fire, the numbers of firefighters have downsized. Currently, 3,975 firefighters are combating the Rim Fire compared with the 5,000 who served last Tuesday.